(Tanith Lee) reviewed by Marian de Haan


Entertaining in the first half but then ruined by Servalan getting soppy. Vampire sand with the intelligence to reason out a way to increase its food supply is an original idea and that slimy green sand gives the episode a suitably eerie atmosphere.

Servalan and Investigator Reeve not getting on is a refreshing change - here is a man she can't charm or seduce. A pity he's killed off so early in the story, leaving much of his potential unused. The sand not being able to decide who is the weakest, Reeve or Tarrant, [both of them seem to get dizzy] is a subtle clue to its nature.

Servalan being so afraid in the base is out of character. The way she hangs onto Tarrant's arm - yuk! IMO Servalan's character is diminished by the writer. If Tarrant can work out the sand's strategy, so can Servalan, and probably faster. [Of course, she could have worked it out already and just pretended ignorance to lull Tarrant into a feeling of superiority, but if this was the writer's intention, it doesn't come over.] (Judith: I have to agree with you here, although it's interesting to compare with 'Orac' where she is afraid of the Phibian, but quickly masters that fear in front of Travis.)

Vila is back to his usual cowardice, making his toughness in the previous episode a one-off occurrence. Avon again stays safely aboard, leaving the action to Tarrant and Dayna. In this episode we have one of the few occasions that a reference is made to previous happenings. Cally is mentioned and briefly mourned. Soolin's character gets an extra dimension by her ghoststory telling, although IMO it's debatable whether this fits her character. Dayna caring so tenderly for Vila seems distinctly out of character. But like everything else in this episode, we can blame it on the influence of the sand. :-)

IMO the end of this episode would have been the perfect moment to kill off Servalan. From here on her presence gets boringly predictable and the next three episodes would have worked just as well without her.] Away from the sand's influence Scorpio could have lain in wait for Servalan's ship and blast it into atoms.

Personal appreciation: **

Tanith Lee's stories are more romantic than what we are used to in B7. For me that works in Sarcophagus but not in this episode. The main reason for that is that the emotional undercurrents between Avon and Cally can be detected in quite a few previous episodes, while Servalan as tender-hearted, lovesick puppy comes totally out of the blue. Moreover, we know from Pressure Point that as a young cadet Servalan was already determinedly and ruthlessly making her way to the top, which seems to leave little room for emotional engagements.

Besides, from what we've seen of her beaux, I can't for one moment believe that Servalan would ever have fallen in love with someone as plain as Don Keller. He has as much charisma as a dead fish. [All right, we only see him dead, but I can't imagine him having had any more sex appeal when alive and in his prime. :-)]

For me, a sentimental Servalan simply doesn't work, and her crying is the most unbelievable happening in the Series. I'm infinitely grateful the writer chose Tarrant to get together with Servalan, sparing us any soppy scenes between her and Avon. And why the hell didn't Tarrant shoot Servalan the moment he set eyes on her? For me that's the moment when the story loses its credibility. (Judith: a lingering influence from Deeta?)

There are some good bits, of course. I like the spooky atmosphere on the planet. Orac's love declaration is hilarious. [It doesn't seem to go down well with Avon, though. :-)] Avon playing at computer is funny, but to me it looks like he's shifting the pieces of that probability square at random, and not getting any results at all. [Well, he could never admit that, could he, as dominant male. :-)]

This is the episode of the glitter costumes. Servalan, Investigator Reeve, the pilots - sparkles galore! The uniforms of the pilots are of a design we haven't seen before. The higher ranks of the Federation military seem to sport a lot of different outfits; did every spaceship and/or planet have its own specific uniforms? Servalan's dress is as unsuitable for trekking over strange planets as possible, but that's nothing new. Judging by the one-bare-shoulder design, that dress must be a leftover from S3. Without his jacket Avon looks even more attractive in his ballet dancer costume. [Note how his buttocks are as round and firm as those of his female companions. :-)]


What's that on the table at Xenon base - a kind of boardgame or some leftovers from Dayna's handicraft?

"There are no women like me. I am unique." True, but every person is unique. Servalan is difficult to beat in pure evilness, though.

"I suggest we move on." But with their menial gone, they choose to leave their equipment behind rather than carry it themselves.

"I never could stand the sight of blood." But he did in the previous episode. :-)

How does that food machine work? Is the ordered meal fetched by robot from the deepfreezer, reconstituted from concentrates or made from raw material like the apple in Moloch? (Judith: not a replicator as in 'Moloch' or the one there would not have had such novelty value to the troops. I think items were stored in a deep freeze or preserved in some other way. Besides, the spring water was supposed to be from Earth.)

One would have expected Tarrant to have learned his lesson after Piri's deception, but no, he falls for Servalan's tears and stupidly allows her to take his gun.

"I've said all that I'm going to." The others don't seem charmed by Tarrant's sleeping with the enemy. If looks could kill... :-)

What Could Have Been Done To Improve It

- Cast another actor for the role of Don Keller.

- Leave out the soppy bits between Servalan and Tarrant.

- Make Tarrant shoot Servalan before teleporting up. [Or, even better, make Dayna go down to execute her.]

- Leave out the end scene of Servalan crying. (Judith: I actually liked her showing that touch of humanity at the end when she doesn't kill Tarrant. Makes her a more rounded character. Besides, she crushes the vial of water at the end - her way of symbolically rejecting any further affection.)

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